The Historical Experiences of Indigenous Peoples and the Colonial War in Taiwan


On August 1st of last year, Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen officially apologized to Taiwan's indigenous peoples for “the four centuries of pain and mistreatment” they have endured.  In this statement, recognition of governmental responsibility was quite clear, and actions for “true reconciliation” between the government and the indigenous peoples was fairly specific: for example, to delineate and announce indigenous traditional territories and lands in three months, or to set up an Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Commission under the Presidential Office in about four months.  Reconstructing historical archives and memories was also highlighted as one of the most significant issues to “shine a light on the true history of the indigenous peoples.”

The series of actions taken by the new Taiwanese president has attracted the keen attention of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples, and also gained widespread interest throughout the world. This upswell of concern, in conjunction with practices of pursuing transitional justice in Taiwan society in recent years, seeks reconsideration of Japanese colonial responsibilities as well as studies of historical injustice.  This presentation is an attempt to engage in this work by focusing on the historical experiences of the indigenous peoples in Taiwan through an examination of the colonial war in records and memories.